Monday, 13 November 2006 19:04

A great letter from someone who knows!

Written by Mike Laughlin
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I have read with interest your Hunter Alert- Fall –06 publication. You and I have corresponded before in the past. I will refresh your memory; I worked for Dept of Interior and Dept of Agriculture ADC programs in nine western states for 31 years as a trapper and as a Supervisory Wildlife Biologist. I have a BS Degree in Wildlife Management from Arizona State University, Tempe, Arizona. I presently am retired from federal service and live on a ranch on the west slope, near Talbot Creek. in the Ruby Mountains, Elko County, Nevada. We take in pasture cattle, in the summer months, on our ranch. I ride on cattle often in the Ruby Mountains. This mountain is "Dead." By that I mean you cannot feel any heartbeats as there are very few animals living on the Ruby Mountains. By animals, I mean Mule Deer. (Deer tracks do not lie)

In 1972 I came to Elko as the Asst, State Supervisor for ADC. I started the first helicopter aerial hunting program in Northeastern Nevada. At that time there were 100,000 domestic sheep grazing upon this 100-mile stretch of The Ruby Mountains. Today there is one sheep outfit left in the Jiggs area on the south end. During the 70’s and into the late 80"s I also had three full time lion hunters answering lion depredations upon the domestic sheep bands state wide. These men had "dry ground " lions dogs that were capable of trailing stock killing lions on bare ground with out the aid of snow cover. I had trappers with pack horses carry traps and M-44’s covering the Rubies and other summer sheep ranges in the summer months, sometimes taking up to 60 coyotes a month in the high country in August and September when the coyote pups started moving around. We flew this mountain with the helicopter and found what elevation the resident denning coyotes were living on the mountains and took them out!!

The domestic sheep acted as a buffer for the deer and were taken much easier by predators. NDOW was getting a free ride for $30,000 a year (which they bitched about having to contribute to this non-game program, as they like to call it)

During this period of time NDOW launched into a lion tagging and movement study. My two Elko lion hunters Dick Hall and later Richard Holcomb and myself were involved in the lion capture, tagging and radio collar program. Dave Ashman of NDOW was the lead biologist. NDOW had become very protective of the lion population in Nevada at that time and Merlin Mc Colmb, NDOW, was concerned we were going to kill all the lions in the Rubies and elsewhere. If my memory serves me right, we captured 50 some lions placing radio collars on 8 to 12. (This work is on file with NDOW as a published manuscript if you are interested) Most of these 50 + or - lions were captured in the Rubies.

My point is in all of this: The NDOW people never once ever mentioned that one of the reason they had so many deer in those days was that there was an all out effort to control predators in and around these domestic sheep ranges state wide NDOW took all the credit for their clever management decisions concerning mule deer populations.

The big deer days are gone. The range sheep industry crashed and domestic sheep were replaced on the Rubies by cattle, 1 cow to 10 sheep. Predator control was gone when the sheep left. The U S Forest Service wanted the sheep gone. NDOW wanted to plant Rocky Mountain Big Horn Sheep. I left the state and became the Asst, State Supr, ADC, in Wyoming

Today. what few mule deer are left, live on the irrigated fields of the Ruby Mountain foothills , where there are people, salt for livestock, few predators, green grass and water. Deer can not survive in the Rubies as we once remember. They had to get out or get bit in the throat by lions or coyotes!!

Food for thought= I would be available for further comment.


Mike Laughlin

Supervisory Wildlife Biologist (Retired)) ADC

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